I have just dedicated two evenings to listening to the first and second episodes of the Schofield podcast – Six Pips.
Both episodes feature the “Principle Keeper” of Schofield watches, Giles Ellis in discussion with his colleague Harry.
The first episode covers at length Giles’ thought on design, at well over an hour it is pretty long but really fascinating, so much so that I immediately listened to the second episode the following evening.
In the second episode, which debatably should have been the first, Giles explains how and why he founded the Schofield watch company. Whilst doing so he gives great insight into what the brand is all about. We also gives some very useful pointers to anyone thinking of starting a watch company thinking it is an easy way to make money ( a clue, it is not).
I always find, after listening to the personalities creating British watch brands, a great admiration for their passion. People like Giles really love what they are creating despite the numerous obstacles.
These podcasts are definitely worth listening to. Personally, I am really looking forward to the next episode.
After several years of admiring the distinctive watches from Sussex’s most famous watch company, I managed to exchange a few words with the founder Giles Ellis. On an off chance, I asked if there might be the opportunity to do a review.
Just after the Christmas break an e-mail arrived out of the blue. Giles had remembered and asked if I would like to do the first review of their new Telemark, a watch I had admired at its launch during the Salon QP week.
The Telemark sits within the ‘Markers’ family of Schofield watches, which was originally pioneered by the Daymark. This model being inspired by the 1960s war film ‘Heroes of Telemark’.
This watch has features common to previous watches however, the Telemark stands alone as a bold addition to the Markers collection. It is Schofield’s first white dialled watch, Schofield’s first fully numerated dial and even Schofield’s first design to be inspired by a coastline outside of the British Isles.
Before giving more details I think it is important to describe what this very particular watch is like to wear.
But before covering the watch I cannnot ignore the very impressive black Osmo Ash box, below. Though it does make you wonder whether someone with a collection of several watches can find space to store the increasingly large and impressive packaging.
After a lifetime of relatively regular sized watches I have recently got used to my slightly larger than my usual, Pinion. The 44mm Telemark takes my “large experience” to another level, especially the case height.
To my surprise once on my wrist it actually doesn’t feel that large and it is perfectly possible to almost not notice your wearing it and I didn’t even once risk bashing it on walls or furniture which I frequently do with my personal Speedmaster. The watches distinctive character though does not really come from it’s size but the design itself and the white dial in particular. The white/grey/brushed steel combination does express a wintery “Telemark” vibe.
The first thing I did then was to put the watch to my ear, The dial does not mention automatic and I had not yet read the specifications, I wanted to understand wether it was an auto or manual. To my surprise I couldn’t hear the sound of a rotor inside the case. To be sure I then checked the spec sheet and discovered it was in fact an auto. I imagine the case thickness keeps the watch quiet.
Design wise there are some many details to be appreciated. The most obvious on my particular watch being the fucsia lining to the grey strap and the design of the caseback.
Should this strap not be to your taste one of the wonderful features of the Schofield range is the wide choice of straps available making the watches even more individual. Then we shouldn’t forget the customised straps from Schofield+Cudd. I kept thinking this watch would be great on one of the Harris tweed straps, something I would never consider for any other watch I can think of.
Once turned over the more design details become visible, for the first few days I continued to see something I had not noticed. For example the Schofield brand name being written very discretely in the number 6 position on the dial. There are so many little quirky features I will resist the temptation to list them but for me the dial hand combination works really well.
Then there is my favorite detail of all the crown and the groove in the case that makes it really easy to operate.
The Technical Details Are:
Fully numerated submarine dial
Dimensions – 44mm diameter base, 42mm bezel, 15.1mm high
The word ‘Schofield’ replaces 9 minute marks on the chapter ring
The hour markers in the chapter ring are black anodised appliqués filled • with Super-LumiNova C5
Case – Vapour-blasted stainless steel
Weight – 134 grams with strap
Date disk reprinted for horizontal readability at 4:30
All the parts of the hands and the windows line up when overlapping
The second hand tapers towards the tip and the counterpoise
The second hand counterpoise is filled with lume
The case has a nail rebate for pulling out the crown
The crown also has a groove for your nails to grip to pull out
The case has a slight radius on the outer edge of the bezel
The box is Osmo ash, the queen of English timbers
Colour – Silver
Crown – Push in, machine finish stainless steel, engraved
Case back – Stainless steel, engraved with Jomfruland lighthouse
Crystal – Sapphire
Water resistance – 200m
Strap – Your choice
Strap bars – Stainless, vapour-blasted
Buckle – Brushed stainless steel, engraved
Serialisation – Sequential numbering
Warranty – 2 years
For more information and lots of really super images you should visit the Schofield website.
So in conclusion, I really enjoyed my time with the Telmark. The perfect location for a review would have been my February ski break, but I already had other horological commitments for that. At the same time I was really pleased to have the opportunity to write the first review which I did not want to postpone. Maybe I have another chance for next February.
My thanks to Melodie of Schofield for organising the logistics of this loan and for her cheery notes.
I don’t think last week was officially know as “watch week” but that is how it turned out for me, a few events growing out of the Salon QP.
Although maybe “week” might not be quiet the right definition as for me everything started mid-October when I met Nicholas Bowman-Scargill for a catch-up. We had first met a year earlier, before he re-launched the Fears brand at the Salon QP 2016. Nicholas told me all about his first year and the three new watches he would be announcing at this years show. He revealed these in order of significance. The first being an additional colour to the existing Redcliff range this time a pretty striking Passport Red.
Next I was expecting a “mechanical Redcliff”, which seemed to be the obvious development. But no, the next watch Nicholas showed me was the quartz Redcliff Continental. The Continental version has a window just the “6” position enabling the wearer to display a second time zone. A very useful feature for international travellers or people with far flung families.
Then came the news I had been expecting the Fears mechanical watch, not however as I was imagining a Redcliff but a completely new watch – the Brunswick the first mechanical watch for the new Fears.
At this time Nicholas was only able to show me a drawing of the watch as the prototype had yet been delivered. The finished watch was due to be shown at the Watchmakers Club evening before the Salon QP. I will dedicate a post to this interesting new watch.
This brings me to the start of “Watch Week”; the first event being the Watchmaker’s Club “Night Before” evening in a private club in London on Wednesday. The Watchmakers Club is a new platform, intended to bring watch collectors and industry experts together via intimate, exclusive events and regular social gatherings. The team behind this unique organisation consists of watchmakers, independent brands, industry influencers and journalists.
It all started in 2012, Andreas Strehler exhibited for the first time at SalonQP in London. On the night before the opening of SalonQP, he invited a few friends and watch enthusiasts to share a drink, talk about watches and the world in general. The idea of The Night Before was born.
On the first evening only a handful of what would become a band of friends showed up at the Lansdowne Club in Mayfair. Over the years, The Night Before became an institution: A gathering of interesting people interested in the world of watches and as the guest list began to grow the Lansdowne Club became too small to host the event.
This year the event was held at The Libary in St Martins Lane. There were two sections, one of which, upstairs, was dedicated the British brands, Fears, Garrick and Pinion. It was a great opportunity firstly to see the Fears Brunswick and Pinions new Atom finally in the metal.
The Atom doesn’t disappoint at all. As you can see the design clearly says, Pinion. As we have come to expect, Piers presented a really nice well built watch. Differently to previous Pinions you first notice the slimmer (11mm) steel case, made possible by the use of the Japanese Miyota 9105 automatic movement. Using this movement also enables Pinion to offer a watch at a much lower price point than we are used to from this brand, £790. It will be very interesting to see how this bet goes.
After Fears and Pinion I managed to squeeze through to the table where Garrick’s Simon Michlmayr was displaying their watches, I was especially keen to see the new S1. This watch is built by master watchmaker, Craig Baird, and finished entirely by hand. This is Garrick’s most complicated timepiece to date, featuring a skeletonised dial and incorporating a power reserve indicator. Only five S1 timepieces will be made per annum.
Unfortunately due lack of space and light I couldn’t get a really decent picture so to give an idea of how the watch is I have taken this picture from Garrick website.
Giles Ellis of Schofield was also present that night along with Simon Cudd, of Schofield + Cudd straps, neither was displaying their products other than those they were wearing. I did manage a dingy peek at Schofield latest watch – the Telemark.
All in all it was a very pleasant evening but being a “school night” I thought it wise to make my way home.
After “the Night Before” comes the actual night- the first evening of this years Salon QP. The big difference between the two evenings was the lighting.
I managed to say hello again to Simon Michlmayr and to get a shot of the Garrick range.
I then found the two British stands together firstly, the Fears Departure lounge that was proving very popular with the new Brunswick attracting a great deal of praise. Then next door Schofield overseen by Giles Ellis himself and Simon Cudd with his straps. Again thanks to better light I managed to get some more useful pictures.
After visiting the Brits I went a little of topic and had quick chat with two brands that I have admired for a while Habring from Austria and Switzerlands Czapek both really nice and like everyone super enthusiastic about their work.
On Saturday I visited the Salon again this time with my sons, in the hope of planting the seed of an interest in watches early. They were very impressed by the chocolate offered at the Fears Departure lounge.
After discovering from their latest brochure that Bremont have a manufacturing facility at Silverstone I came across this great article on the Gear Patrol website. After the pessimism of my previous posting this all looks very optimistic for the future of real manufacturing in the UK.
Giles English turns the steel watch case over in his hands, a boyish excitement glinting in his eyes. Beside him, Bremont’s lead technician and their designer eye the sharp circle as it shines in the florescent lighting of the facility. The three men are huddled silently around a simple watch part made entirely in the UK, a feat indicative of the future of British watchmaking and their part in it.
Bremont is known for its Trip-Tick design, the trademark three-piece, hardened-steel case upon which every piece in the core collection is built, and its aviation underpinnings, a nod to the family’s legacy of flying. But what drives Bremont’s founders, brothers Nick and Giles English, is a deep desire to reclaim the lost tradition of British watchmaking.
That much was clear when we took a look inside Bremont’s facilities in the United Kingdom to observe their production process. We peered into their new state-of-the-art R&D space at Silverstone Race Track; we looked over the shoulders of Bremont watchmakers at their two-story headquarters location in Henley-on-Thames. We witnessed, for the first time, how the brand ticks.
There are few global watch brands that can say they operate out of a bucolic village in the West Sussex countryside. But then there are few watchmakers that can also boast ‘ukulele maker’ under their skillset. However, such is the visionary nature of Giles Ellis’s pioneering watch brand, Schofield, that the horological rule book is being quietly re-written, from a leafy corner of the English countryside. What began as a personal quest to find a watch that fitted his exacting personal taste has evolved into an international operation that has carved out a curious niche in the competitive world of watch-making.
‘Schofield was never a commercial enterprise, at the start it was about creating one watch for myself’, says polymath Ellis, who previously worked as coding specialist, product designer and restorer of musical instruments, and who heads a talk at the fine watch exhibition SalonQP next month on the design element of watch production.
It was a combination of expertise and uncompromising personal taste that prompted Ellis to handcraft his own amplifier. ‘All my life I’ve been someone who likes things to be just right, and as such the products I’m attracted to tend to be incredibly expensive. So I’ve ended up furnishing my life with things that I’ve made with my own hand.’ The execution of this amplifier laid the foundations for what was to become the Schofield template, even though Ellis didn’t realise it at the time. Despite it being purely for personal use, Ellis branded the amp as a ‘Schofield’ product. ‘At the time, I was into spaghetti Westerns and Schofield was the name of a revolver used by Jessie James. It’s the bad boy’s revolver of choice’.
This incarnation of Schofield swiftly evolved into a watch brand, after Ellis – with trademark dynamism – decided to create his own watch. ‘I got completely immersed in the project,’ he says by way of understatement, ‘and quickly learned that to have the watch made the way I wanted, I’d have to set up a minimum order. I knew that I was going to end up with more watches than I could ever need, and that was the tipping point that turned Schofield into a business.’ Making their debut in 2011 at SalonQP, initially his business plan involved selling a grand total of three: in his first year he exceeded year three of that plan. But to Ellis, this isn’t about meteoric, instant success.
‘For four years before we launched, I was making sure that the business was as solid and had as much integrity as the watches themselves’. To that end, each element is impeccably conceived and handcrafted, with certain models made in Germany (an emerging talent on the world watch stage) and some in England. A carefully curated range includes the Signalman DLC, Signalman Polished and Blacklamp, each impeccably made and some featuring specially developed materials (the Blacklamp employs a patented rendering of carbon fibre called Morta), sleekly designed and (for that dash of English eccentricity) named after UK lighthouses because of their longevity and engineering. Salon QP sees a new addition to the roster, with the launch of the Beater (details firmly confidential at this point) and a new pen with custom-made ink mixed by Schofield. Clearly, Schofield is intent on writing its own future.
BREMONT STRENGTHENS ITS TECHNICAL TEAM WITH THE ARRIVAL OF THE ARTISAN MOVEMENT DESIGNER
BREMONT STRENGTHENS ITS TECHNICAL TEAM WITH THE ARRIVAL OF THE ARTISAN MOVEMENT DESIGNER STEPHEN MCDONNELL
Bremont is pleased to announce the arrival of Stephen McDonnell to its technical team. Stephen, originally from Northern Ireland, was senior instructor at Wostep in Switzerland before he left to pursue a career in movement design. Stephen has been instrumental in the design and prototype build of many great movements working with a number of the most prestigious Swiss watch brands, he is one of the few watch makers capable of designing and building complete movements by hand. Stephen has moved from Switzerland to join the ever increasing technical and design team at Bremont. This signing demonstrates Bremont’s continued investment of in-house, UK based skills as part of a long term investment in British watch making.
Giles English “It is great that we are able to attract someone of Stephen’s caliber to join the company. We have a wonderful team utilizing skills from different industries to be able to fulfill our long term aims and commitment to build as much as we can in the UK.”
Nick English “Nothing is easy when building watches and it takes considerable investment in both our Henley and Silverstone facilities. We are eternally grateful for the help we receive from the Swiss industry as we could not do any of this without their support, but having someone as immensely talented as Stephen in the UK is a great asset to our team.”
Stephen McDonnell “I am very excited to be joining Bremont and moving back from Switzerland. Nick and Giles’ long term vision was a strong factor in me making the move, as well as being part of the revival of the British watch industry. My experience in all areas of movement manufacture will help support them in their continued plans and build on the great work they have done to date.”
BACKGROUND TO STEPHEN
Stephen qualified from Oxford University and moved to Switzerland in January 2001 to study at Wostep. While there, Wostep proposed that he remain with them and become an instructor. For 4 years he was the senior instructor at Wostep Neuchâtel, with responsibility for nearly all of the courses (full training, turning, refresher, restoration and complications). In 2007 he left Wostep and became independent and has since worked with the likes of MB&F, Christophe Claret, Maîtres du Temps and Peter Speake Marin for all aspects of design and prototyping manufacturing. He has also worked extensively in the restoration of vintage and complicated watches.
The Schofield founder and design aficionado on fountain pens, being frozen out at Baselworld, and why he won’t mind at all if you scratch one of his new watches on day one…
QP: Your new watch is a bit of a departure from the Signalman and Blacklamp watches – tell us what the idea is behind it.
Giles Ellis: It’s called the Beater. A beater watch is one you wear all the time, on the chance that you might be doing some DIY or emptying the shed, without having to go inside and change your watch. It is something you’re happy to scratch and mark. This helps you get past the bubble of anxiety that comes with any luxury purchase, before you scratch it for the first time. When you go on watch forums, it’s how people refer to it, as their ‘beater’ watch.
QP:A rough-and-ready watch doesn’t sound very “Schofield” – the Signalman and Blacklamp were designed to within an inch of their lives. Is this simplicity, Giles Ellis-style?
GE: It’s simplicity, but making sure that I’m happy with it. Everything I set out to do with the Beater, I did, which was unusual. There were no deviations from the original design brief.
We’ve done an enamel dial, which I’ve always wanted to do. Enamel is normally delicate. We found someone who could do it differently for us; the finish looks like the stove enamel on an Aga. It’s slightly ripply, we’re not going for the super-smooth finish you’d normally associate with enamel. They’re coming in very “Farrow and Ball” colours, all printed in the UK.
There are three different case materials; bronze, titanium and steel. They’re all finished in-house – we’ve invested in a lot of finishing kit. The bronze cases are bead-blasted and force-patinated twice over. The titanium is heat-treated, and the steel is finely bead-blasted and brushed. It’s what in the knife industry is called “hand-rubbed”. It’s very finely scratched in a non-uniform way. Almost satinated. The titanium comes out a very dark slate blue, it’s wonderful.
The first few watches will be the SalonQP batch. That may only be the first 15-20 of each material, and then the finishing recipe will change slightly, especially for the bronze.
QP:Most people’s “beater” watches are something cheap and cheerful, that will be replaced; this is designed to last. Is it better to think of it as a “luxury beater”?
GE: It is a very luxurious beater, and it costs us an enormous amount of money to make. We could have marketed it at a higher price, but it suits our business model, very patiently, to put it out there at a cheaper price. It would be a tougher sell at a higher price, but when you see it, there is quite a lot of watch for your money – I get carried away, and add value at every step. It will cost £2,800 inc. VAT in the UK, with the titanium version being £100 or so dearer, just down to the material costs.
I think we’ll sell more than before. I think there are a lot of people who wouldlike to subscribe to Schofield watches who just can’t afford to. The Beater should fulfill that. The Blacklamp is super-cool, but it’s an expensive watch. The Signalman DLC was the same – we still receive enquiries for them although we’re not making them any more. The best we can do is facilitate the odd “pre-loved” sale, which only happens occasionally.
QP:If it’s such a rugged watch, why give it a sapphire display caseback?
GE: We didn’t have to have an exhibition caseback, but I like it. With two windows into the watch you have to be more careful over your quality control. The sapphire we used is a custom design; extra thick and slightly bevelled
The new-old stock ETA movements we’re using are marked Synchrom in gold. Synchrom was an old watch manufacture, and they were bought out later by Doxa. We decided they look so great that we didn’t want to badge over it, change it, or hide it with a closed caseback. It adds exclusivity to any watches we make – there are only so many, and when they’re gone, we have other movements we use in their place. They all have different charm, and history. You could end up with a one-off in terms of movement and case patination.
QP:Your watches have become known for some of their stylistic flourishes, like the “slash zero” at 12 o’clock. Can we expect similar touches on the Beater?
GE: I’m very proud of the crown on the Beater. It actually cost more than the Blacklamp crown – which had a luminous tritium gas insert embedded in it. It’s a bead-blasted stainless steel crown, with lots of concentric circles like the Fresnel lens [a key design trope that harks back to the Signalman’s lighthouse motif, something that became almost an unofficial Schofield logo] engraved on the front, then paint-filled. We had to do it so that you don’t get a groove where the engraving was, but the lines are very fine, so it’s very hard to do. They’re real little beauties.
Then there are the straps. We’re using English leather, which comes very cracked. We call them the Tiger Loaf because that’s exactly how they look. There’s a black, a dark brown and a tan.
QP:Tell us about the motto: “Sussex and England”, which appears on the Beater and elsewhere:
GE: We’ve gone for Sussex and England on the dial. It has become the brand’s strapline – it comes from old cricket bats. Players used to play for Sussex and England, so the bats had that written on them. I love the quirkiness of the language. People often query it, but it’s very pertinent to how we do business – so much of it is right here in Sussex, and a lot of the rest is in England.
I wanted more of it to be made in England than the Blacklamp, but only if it could be creative and original. We don’t use one-stop-shop suppliers for our accessories at all. Every component in the box, even the paper that wraps the chamois leather, comes from a separate supplier.
QP:You launched the watch at SalonQP, where you launched the brand four years ago, and where you have made all of your watch launches so far. What is it about the show that appeals to you?
GE: It’s no exaggeration to say that we gear our entire year around SalonQP. We chase our suppliers all year to get everything ready. I’m raring to go by the time it comes round. I’ve been every year that it’s been held in the Saatchi Gallery – I feel like a vet’ now, even though we’re only four years old. I think it was the first year, I said that with James [Gurney]’s help, we had a wonderful synergy going. I’m not going to try and be like everyone else, and try and launch products at Baselworld. I get lost in the noise, I’m too small. It’s degrading and depressing – not something I ever want to pay for! I’m not interested in Basel, so I stay at SalonQP. Being that it’s an English watch fair, it’s the obvious choice for us as an English watch company.
QP:You’ve been making watches as Schofield for several years now. What have you learnt about the business?
GE: The biggest challenge of all isn’t launching a product that people will like, it’s staying in business. This is a very difficult business to stay in. You see people launch watches, and they don’t really sell, it fails and goes under. One of the things I’m most proud of is that I’m still in business. There have been dramas and politics, and all sorts. There’s a lot of regret and wasted money in watchmaking.
QP:Where exactly do you find the time? It seems like there’s nothing produced by Schofield that hasn’t been thought through to the tiniest detail.
GE: People do often ask me where I find the time. I really don’t know. I do work long hours. I live and breathe Schofield – I do a lot of thought before I sit down on a job. Design for me is mostly quite intuitive. It’s not what takes the time, unless it’s something tricky like the torch for the Blacklamp.
QP:Between making watches, you’ve also put your name to a fountain pen. What was the thinking behind that?
GE: It’s a bit of a game really. Many watch companies launch a fountain pen and go completely mad, making something that could never be written with, it’s so heavy, ornate and overly-engraved.
I collect fountain pens, and I appreciate that you want a pen that isn’t so flash that you’re self-conscious on the train, or that you’re worried about dropping it. So it wasn’t going to be unbalanced or overly gilded. I wanted it to have all the integrity of any large-production fountain pen – Onoto, Caran d’Ache, you name it.
I naturally gravitate towards Japanese pens – they’re very big on fountain pens in Japan. They often have tapering bodies, with no pen clip; I melded Japanese and English aesthetics. They’re hand-made on lathes in the UK and put together by Onoto. We’re using Onoto nibs as well – a nib is one thing I think we would struggle to make properly.
QP:There are obviously design nods to the watches…
GE: Yes – the clip looks like the Blacklamp hands, which we’re also using on the Beater. It’s quite sartorial; they look like a necktie as well. The lid has an onyx cabochon, which we were very pleased with.
Someone tweeted that it’s twice the price of a Montblanc – well, it has thrice the amount of silver in it, all hallmarked in Birmingham. And of course, the pen isn’t just a pen. It comes with a writing kit, and the box is the most elaborate box we’ve ever made. We even made our own ink to go with it.